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D&D General Can we talk about best practices?

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I hope we can*, otherwise we’re doomed to never get better at...whatever it is we’re doing.

So simple question: how can we talk about best practices without being told it’s badwrongfun or onetruewayism?

EDIT: Changed the title without changing the first line.
 
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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I hope it is, otherwise we’re doomed to never get better at...whatever it is we’re doing.

So simple question: how can we talk about best practices without being told it’s badwrongfun or onetruewayism?

Talk about things you prefer or don't like. Talk about things you've found annoy people and how to avoid them. Avoid trying to label them objectively better or worse.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
By recognizing that outside of a few specific and incredibly loose Best Practices (Don't be Exclusionary, Do some Prep Work whether you're the DM or the Player, be willing to Be Invested in the Game, etc) there are no best practices.

There are only Best Practices for you. Or me. Or a specific table.

Couch your statement with "This is what I do, (statement) and it works really well!" or go for a more general "Hey, how do you folx deal with XYZ Issues in your games? I do PQR."

And then, y'know... go from there.

'Cause it's alllll gonna be based on style, intent, audience, etc. Thinking D&D has a set of Best Practices in how to run it is like thinking all Actors must use "The Method" in order to be good at their job. Every D&D Player and every DM is an Actor and a Director, and they're all gonna have their own ways of getting the movie made.


As long as the finished movie is good, who cares how they got there?
 


RFB Dan

Podcast host, 6-edition DM, and guy with a pulse.
Yeah, it can be tough. I have things that I wouldn't allow at my table that others may find perfectly acceptable (though I don't understand why anyone would be okay with metagaming PCs or overpowered munchkins, but hey, do you boo). I suppose the only thing that can be one is preface your best practice with the phrase "at my table".
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I hope it is, otherwise we’re doomed to never get better at...whatever it is we’re doing.

So simple question: how can we talk about best practices without being told it’s badwrongfun or onetruewayism?
I would start by acknowledging that there are no best practices, and that the actual concept is badwrongfun and onetruewayism.

Then we can move on to talk about what works for us individually, and our personal preferences when it comes to gaming.
 

Composer99

Explorer
Insofar as there are such things as best practices for playing TTRPGs, they are general good social practices, such as "don't be a jerk", "make sure everyone is on board with how things are going to go before gameplay begins", "know when to compromise and when to stand firm", that sort of thing.
 

Yora

Hero
Whenever a player announces an action that sounds nonsensical, don't just roll the dice. Always ask the players what they think they are gonna accomplish with the action. Unless a player is deliberately trolling, the actions that players want to do almost always make perfect sense in their minds.
If players announce something that seems obviously stupid, it's almost certainly because the situation they envision in their minds is different from what you imagine in your mind. Players can't see what their characters can see, they can't hear what their characters can hear, and they don't know what their characters would know. The mental image in the minds of players is based only on what you told them. They have no other way to perceive the environment around their characters. When you said something that they interpreted differently from what you envisioned, they have no way to know.
Only the GM can notice that something a player declares does not appear to line up with what the GM is envisioning. So when a player declares something nonsensical, always ask what the player thinks will happen. Then you will be able to tell if the player needs better information first, or if something insanely risky does actually have a purpose.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
What works for me may not work for you.

When I DM I don't plan out plots per se. I plan out immediate threats and opportunities, likely to encounter NPCs, general organizations along with their motivations. Then we just go from there.

So I normally don't have much of anything pre-mapped (there are exceptions) and while I know who knows what and what there motivations are, I don't typically pre-plan any dialog or set pieces.

Along with that, I ask players what they want to do next at the end of a session if we are at a decision point. Do they want to follow up on the job opportunity that the Baron made available, or do they want to explore that abandoned temple someone mentioned? Maybe follow up on some rumor or some other tangent that I'm not thinking of. I always try to have 3 or 4 options people can follow and they can always suggest something different.

I find that works best for me. I'm perfectly okay with high levels of improv, and TBH I have no patience for detailed dungeon mapping or dungeon crawls in general.
 

Malmuria

Adventurer
This is interesting because there is so much gm advice out there. Youtube is full of do this, don't do this, top 10 things you should do, etc. Similarly, what makes a good "gm advice" section in a game? Does the dmg, for example, suggest that a particular style of play is best (and if not, does it make the dmg more generic and less useful?)?
 


Yora

Hero
Run the game you think you can run. Not the kind of ideal game you wish you could run.

Being ambitious and trying things out is always good to learn and approve. But quite often it's a good idea to really think if what you plan to do is realistic.

An 80 part campaign that takes the PCs from 1st to 20th level sounds cool. But when your GM career so far consist of a campaign with 5 games and one with 3 games before they stalled out, do you really think you'll pull that off? Better to plan for a single adventure that can be done in 5 games and then has the option to carry on into a next adventures, if the players all work together well as a group and are still motivated.
Or you want to run a deeply involved campaign with 6 PCs who all play major roles in the continuous narrative, but you never can get all seven people in your group together at the same time more than ince every two months or so. Yes, your idea might be amazing, but when you have a group where only 4 or 5 people can actually make it for every scheduled game, better find a campaign that doesn't require all PCs to be present every time.
 

There are no best practices because there is no one game of D&D (or any other rpg, for that matter). Some tables run super casual author stance power fantasy and some high sandbox deep improve type of game and all shading and gradations in between are possible. Some table can even switch between styles or the DM can juggle things to satisfy players with different style agendas.

So advice for one style may be contra indicated for another.
 


This is interesting because there is so much gm advice out there. Youtube is full of do this, don't do this, top 10 things you should do, etc. Similarly, what makes a good "gm advice" section in a game? Does the dmg, for example, suggest that a particular style of play is best (and if not, does it make the dmg more generic and less useful?)?
A lot of it is hit or miss and the best of it can be summed up as "Don't be a dick" and don't let anyone else be a dick at your table either. They rest of the good stuff is often aimed at a particular style of D&D. it is often wort watching because seeing how other people do it can be a learning experience but creating advice for a DM that has never seen a game or played before and just bought the rules and wants to run a game is not easy and not all DMG's succeed at that task.

There are some Youtube series that are worth watching but to get the value quite a few videos may have to be watched.

Then there is the option of watching some actual gameplay but also quite an investment in time. I wonder is there utility is some one taking a Critical Role session and breaking down what is going on for the beginning player.
 

Grantypants

Explorer
I think the most useful way to talk about our hobby and how to improve it is with actual evidence. "Maybe X seemed like a good idea, but what happened when you actually tried it at the table?" "I thought Y would be awful, but this is what happened when we tried it." It's also super important to talk about your style of play and what you hope to accomplish with whatever piece of advice. For example, strategies for resolving conflict between players about what to do next might be great for a table with players that prefer to focus on tactical combat setpieces. On the other hand, if the players would rather roleplay through drama between characters, then you've taken away a fun part of the game for them.

D&D is a game, and ultimately the point is to have fun. So, whatever best practices you've got, if they make your table have more fun, then it was good advice for your table.
 



Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I think it’s true that what’s best for one game, or one group, might not be what’s best for another. But I think it’s silly to extrapolate that there is therefore no such thing as best practices, or that the concept is one true wayist. It just means best practices are contextual.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
Any activity that has had this many people working on it for this long absolutely has best practices. Some of these are nearly universal across games, genres, and groups (like, pay attention, be respectful, understand the rules, be consistent, work out social conflict outside of game-play, be explicit about what you like and don't like, don't argue about rules during the game, etc.). Others are broadly applicable but might be conditional: For example, fudging dice vs. letting them roll in the open; railroad vs. sandbox vs. somewhere in between; PvP vs. not; following the rules to a T vs. just doing whatever feels right in the moment; meticulous planning and inventory tracking vs. just letting it all ride; meta-game knowledge vs. character knowledge; open discussion of combat tactics in the middle of combat vs. deep-immersion decision making; etc. There's a lot of GM advice out there, and some of it is contradictory, because for most issues there are a small handful of best practice approaches.
 

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